Sometimes I’ll be doing something for work, one of the bizarre fantasy-like tasks my job involves, and I’ll be hit with a moment of clarity: this is my job. And, you better believe, it’s a pleasure to be at work sometimes.

I had one of these moments recently as I was dining at Watt Riverside Restaurant and Bar, in the shaded al fresco dining area of their coveted riverside location at New Farm. Sipping on a glass of champagne and revelling in the perfectly clear weather of the afternoon, it was impossible not to be wrapped up in the joy of the moment. And joyous it was, as was every moment of my afternoon dining at Watt. From the attentive and welcoming staff to the mouth-wateringly delicious food, the experience was a refreshing reminder of everything that is wonderful about Brisbane dining.

While I have enjoyed many a cocktail on Watt’s balcony (do yourself a favour and try the coconut margarita), I was excited to return to sample the latest refresher from the seasonal menu. The first dishes we were treated to, taken from the Bar Snacks menu, seemed large enough to be full meals in their own right. The sesame-fried baby squid assembled with sweet green papaya, fresh chilli, lime, and cucumber, while not for the faint of heart, was perfectly spiced and delectably crunchy. One of my favourite eats of the day, I could easily sip on a cider and eat an entire plate of the squid while watching the ferries cruise up and down the river. Bliss. The Wagyu burger was a bit of a surprise. Deceptively unassuming, this is (in my opinion) easily one of the best burgers in Brisbane. Succulent, juicy and oozing tomato relish and aioli, this burger was a standout of the day. After our meal, head chef Michael Harris informed me that this celebrated burger was one of the most popular items on the menu – and so it should be.

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After these extremely nourishing bar snacks (and concerned how we would find room for mains) we were excited to receive the next round of dishes. The Fresh Line-Caught Market Fish, delivered fresh daily, was a generous serve of barramundi alongside sautéed king prawns, artichoke, baby potatoes, chorizo, spinach, and lemon sabayon. Each element was thoughtfully selected to bring out the subtleties and flavours of each other component. The second main was Hunter Valley duck breast, plated among rich celeriac, potato and lentil risotto, and delicious truffle mascarpone. The bed of risotto melted in my mouth, and was perfectly accented by the truffle mascarpone. Hearty and comforting, these dishes are ideal fare for Brisbane’s subtropical winters.

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And just as we thought we couldn’t possibly eat any more, two-hatted head chef Michael Harris (previously of Baguette at Ascot and Raffles Hotel Singapore) joined us at our table with a stunning board of charcuterie. As we savoured marinated olives, charred focaccia, cacciatore salami, and other pickings (all smoked and prepared in-house, mind you), Michael spent some time chatting with us about Watt’s new direction and drive. His philosophy, emphasising paddock-to-plate dining, is a key aspect that Watt is trying to bring to discerning Brisbane diners. For this reason, the menu focuses on fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce, with everything from smoked meats to breads being prepared from scratch in-house. Sourcing produce from local farmers and suppliers enables Michael to ensure everything that leaves his kitchen is of the highest standard, and giving back to the community he loves. Coming from an impressive background, having worked with Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal and in highly esteemed kitchens across Europe and Asia, Michael’s technical experience in fine dining is extensive. By bringing his skills and knowledge to Watt, he brings valuable insight to fine dining and makes the experience more accessible to more Brisbane diners.

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His recently launched dining experience, “Dinner With a Difference”, is a monthly event where Michael takes diners on an incomparable journey through seasonally led dishes from local producers. These dinners provide Michael with a platform to promote and celebrate his favourite charities, and the opportunity to create awareness and make a difference. Dinner With a Difference, hosted on July 20, will be a celebration of Mother Nature’s beautiful bounty of truffles, and is an evening not to be missed.

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Feature Image: Watt Riverside Restaurant and Bar

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